Preparation of Cellulose Hydrogel from Sago Pith Waste as a Medium for Seed Germination

A large amount of sago pith waste (SPW) produced by the growing sago industry has become an environmental concern. Instead of disposing as waste, SPW could be converted into a hydrogel and used as a seed germination medium. In this study, a hydrogel was prepared from SPW cellulose fibres via crosslinking with epichlorohydrin (ECH). Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) characterisation showed that pure cellulose fibres extracted from the SPW were successfully crosslinked with ECH to form the hydrogel. Scanning electron microscope (SEM) micrograph of the hydrogel showed a porous microstructure. The optimum hydrogel swelling ratio at 19.9 g g–1 was obtained with 5% w/v SPW cellulose content and 5 ml ECH. In this study, the hydrogel hydration property was demonstrated by using it as a medium for maize seed germination. The germination rate (GR) was observed to be above 70% when SPW cellulose hydrogel alone was used as the medium without the needs for frequent watering.